who had, by virtue of winning the subsidiary Vase competition in the previous season, gained promotion to Pool A of the Blacksticks competition and it promised to be a tough, challenging opening encounter. It also heralds the return to “report-writing” mode for me!
Despite the recent (very) wet weather, Sunday was a warm, sunny day and the pitch was in excellent condition, to augur well for an open game of rugby.
Unfortunately the match did not start as planned, in spite of the previous Wednesday’s re-start training, with the kick-off not going the requisite 10 metres, giving the hosts possession from the resultant scrum. As it happened, given the referees relaxed attitude to the put-in, it was a more guaranteed possession than it ought to have been!
The referee also showed a remarkably relaxed attitude to the ruck, allowing SP to interfere on the ground, and lie offside, throughout the game. Unfortunately, Bury were to lose a player to the “sin bin” after only 7 minutes, when the player allowed his frustration at the referee’s failure to adequately control that crucial area of the game to get the better of him.
For the first 20 minutes neither side could gain the upper hand, with SP missing a penalty attempt at goal, before Kelly broke the deadlock with a try in the left corner. This was well converted by fly half Smith, 7-0.
Then, 5 minutes later, scrum half Cooke scored in the right corner. In the lead-up to the try, the damage was caused by Millington who made a trademark diagonal run, to be hauled down 5 metres short of the line, but the support was on hand to take the off-load and, from the resultant goal-line ruck, Cooke dived over; followed by another excellent conversion from Smith, 14-0 at half time.
Immediately after the re-start, SP scored a converted try of their own, under the posts, following some indifferent Bury defence, possibly as a result of a number of positional changes, 14-7.
However, Holt's creativity in the centre was starting to open gaps and his well-timed pass allowed Rose enough space to power away from the defence and score under the posts. Again Smith converted, 21-7.
SP continued to threaten, though, but were thwarted by solid defence, twice being held-up over the Bury line.
It was now time for SP to become frustrated and unfortunately this boiled over into a fracas when, at a Bury free-kick, the SP scrum half ran off with the ball and then punched the Bury scrum half who tried to get the ball off him. Regrettably, one of the Bury players decided to take the law into his own hands and retaliated.
Bury maintained the upper hand that they had enjoyed for most of the match and SP, who had been chasing the game for most of it, were unable to curb their frustration and the final 10 minutes became rather more tetchy.
Although Smith, uncharacteristically, missed a kickable penalty, the game was wound up with an Adams try on the right. Once again, Millington had done the damage, this time down the wing, and, once again, support was in abundance and good hands from Green and Eady allowed Adams to stroll over the line, untouched. This went unconverted, giving a final score of 26-7.
In summary, a good team performance and every single player can be proud of his contribution, especially Turner who did a more than adequate job filling in at prop. Also, as pleasing as it is that the boys are now prepared and able to stand up for themselves and their team mates when they have to, they must learn to control and target their aggression and retain discipline when tested.